Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The "New" Strength and Conditioning?

Strength and Conditioning, as a field, has always been about making people bigger, faster and stronger. If we can achieve those things we can improve on field/court performance. The "why" was always pretty easy, and the "how" was the tricky part. Every coach had different techniques that they'd use to get performance out of their athletes.

All these strength coaches had the same goals, but had different styles. One would use a ton of volume with moderate weights. Another might use a ton of plyometrics and not as much barbell training. Another could do everything at 90% and above. Another coach could combine everything into what would be the coolest training video anyone has ever seen. (The awesome part starts at 5:05)

As long as the athlete was healthy and getting better, everything was just dandy. But the strength and conditioning game has changed in the last few years. It's no longer just about improving performance and keeping your athletes healthy. If that's all you're doing at your gym, you're only doing half of the equation.

The new breed of strength coach encompasses pre/rehab modalities to make sure the athletes stay healthy. The new strength coach is able to walk the line between physical therapy and training in terms of assessing and correcting faulty movement patterns. The new strength coach is able to correct your asymmetries from the inside-out while fine-tuning your body through all of the smallest intrinsic muscles of your abdomen.

But I don't understand why.

Let me clarify my statement. I understand why all of these things are important to know and apply. I get why we need to focus on pre/rehab kinds of training to ensure the health of our athletes. I do these things; the warm-ups that I prescribe to athletes and gen-pop clients are all encompassing and will help to activate, lengthen and strengthen particular areas that will create a stronger, healthier body. But it seems like a lot of coaches are collecting letters after their names that don't necessarily apply to making someone a better athlete. ATC, PRI, NKT, DNS, SFMA and ART are all great letters to have after your name, but do they make you a better strength coach? Will your athletes/clients become better after you spend 2 grand and an entire weekend at one of these certs? Or would that time have been better spent in the gym with your athletes.

I was recently at a seminar and these certifications were being mentioned by everybody as something they were going to pursue. Everyone was talking about the certs they were going to be getting. I went home and checked them out, and some of them aren't even available to a person who isn't an AT/PT/MD. Seriously? Am I going to be edged out of my industry because I didn't get my ATC before I went into strength and conditioning?

What happened to scope of practice? I know that being familiar with the SFMA (and the related topics) is very important, but if I am not legally able to apply it to my athletes then what good is it for me? Is it really within my job description to correct someones breathing pattern? If I get an athlete for 60 minutes a few times per week, is it in my best interest to re-train their intercostals, or should I worry more about their hip mobility and their ability to produce force? As a strength coach, I feel like it's the latter. Like Wendler says, "Don't major in the minors".

Isn't this the reason I've been working on expanding my professional network? So that I can refer people out to AT's, PT's and manual therapists when it's time for them to get specific work done. I was talking to Tony Gentilcore about this topic recently and he reminded me that my job wasn't to diagnose anything. I had a similar talk with Vic Brown from BU (who's an ATC) and he said he keeps the ATC and CSCS separate by using his job description. His job is not to fix/rehab athletes, but to make them stronger and faster; there is an entire Athletic Training department for that job.

Here's another thing that I've been thinking about: why is this all suddenly such a huge concern? People have been strong and healthy for quite a long time without worrying about their breathing patterns. I know the same can be said for things like mobility and soft tissue work, but those things have a readily apparent change on the way someone feels and moves. Would Bo Jackson had been a better athlete if someone had focused on his left-smaller-diaphragm? Would Arnold have been more symmetrical and better proportioned if he'd be concerned about his Left Posterior Mediastinum Inhibition? I'm personally having trouble figuring out where all of these other things fall into the role of a strength and conditioning coach. If getting someones diaphragmatic rhythm in sync with their scapulothoracic rhythm will get them to a 40" vertical, a 10.2-second 100-yard dash or a 585 deadlift then I'll be all about it. For right now, however, my job is to get people stronger, faster and keep them healthy. I'll keep doing that.

This is a 90% single for him. Scary.
Anyone have any feedback? How much of a role should PRI/SFMA kind of stuff play in strength and conditioning? Is it the S&C coach's job or is it something that should be farmed out to the right people? Let me know what you think!

Have a great day, and go lift something heavy!


  1. Hey Mike,

    First time reading your blog and I must say this is a thought provoking post. I totally agree with you on how the strength & conditioning world has changed. I know the legal definitions of scope of practice but sometimes I feel like there is an overlap depending on the situation. I have a friend for instance, that is a chiropractor, but she was license in California to also do certain physical therapy modalities. Does that mean someone should see her for physical therapy? Probably not. I feel that the guiding indicator as to whether or not you can help someone is pain. If someone is in pain, not your department. If on the other hand someone needs legit strengthening of one area to prevent a muscle imbalance, that I think is ok. The other issue is that I think people use certs as bells and whistles to get more clients. People have a tendency of going with what the paper says as opposed to what the experience says. All in all, great post, it definitely brings up some great points.

  2. Thanks, Andrew. You make a great point here; while scope of practice has a legal definition it really has a gray area in reality. It is ultimately left up to the trainer or coach to decide what they feel comfortable doing with their knowledge in the particular setting. And I 100% agree with you that people use their certs to attract clients; but that's what the industry demands nowadays. You can't get looked at for a job if you dont have your CSCS and your clients want to see that you have various certs like KB, running and jazzercise.